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Hello Lamp Post: Your Community Has The Answers, You Just Need to Ask The Questions. #techUKSmarterState

This week (26-30 September) the Central Government Programme is running its Building Smarter State Week in the run-up to the eighth edition of our flagship public services conference, Building the Smarter State, which will take place at The Royal Society on Thursday 29 September. All week we'll be featuring guest blogs from members on topics supportive the agenda.

Read the latest blog below:

The world is rapidly evolving and the way in which the public communicates and engages with public sector decision-makers has never been more collaborative. The growth in public participation technologies is allowing communities to be at the forefront of decision-making. 

Acknowledging the pressing need to create more citizen-centric services, there’s no better way to find out how to build these than by identifying the needs and opinions of the public. These are the people most impacted by these decisions and therefore should be at the heart of the decision-making process.  

If there’s one way to create smarter cities and services, it’s to engage local people, hear from your diverse community and involve the public from the start.  

Why is it important?  

In today’s society, it’s important to make smart decisions and to be efficient with resources. There is an element of risk involved in all strategic decisions. But by co-creating solutions with the people you serve, you can help to reduce risk because they’ll tell you exactly what their problems are and how to solve them.  

And by involving the public earlier on in the decision-making process, there is more chance they will support the decisions you make because they trust you. Public participation plays a significant role in building places and spaces for people to live, work and play. The more the public feels involved in the creation of these spaces, the more connected to them they will feel.  

Going digital  

Adopting digital means of community engagement comes with certain benefits. Where traditional methods of engagement are time-consuming and costly to host, digital communications automate the process. Saving your staff time spent on responding to queries and collecting feedback.  

There are also many barriers to the public accessing in-person engagement events, such as travel costs and time. But with digital, you can be available to your community 24/7. Offering support services, receiving feedback and sharing information round the clock.  

How to get community engagement right  

To gather the most representative data, you need to engage your wider community. Using digital technologies can help overcome barriers to engagement for members of the public such as access or cost. Plus, the more opinions you can receive, the clearer your understanding of what citizens need from you.  

It's important to have a clear message or question for your audience. This means knowing what you want to learn or what you want to share. Your community will give more purposeful, useful responses when you use clear messaging. People love entertaining, emotive experiences. By creating interactions that excite and stimulate the public, you’ll generate higher levels of engagement and more considered, in-depth insights.  

So, what’s next?  

There is no doubt that the future of community engagement is digital. The GovTech sector is projected to be worth £740bn globally by 2025, a growth driven by the adoption of emerging technologies. It is now up to local governments and decision-makers globally to commit to a more forward-thinking and digital strategy that involves citizens throughout. By harnessing community engagement, the public sector will be able to co-create smarter, more connected spaces and services. 

Tiernan Mines, Hello Lamp Post.jpeg

This article was written by Tiernan Mines, Co-Founder and CEO of Hello Lamp Post. Get in touch with this author.

To learn more about Hello Lamp Post, please visit their LinkedIn page.

Building The Smarter State Conference - 29 September

You can also follow the campaign on techUK's Twitter and LinkedIn - #techUKSmarterState.

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